2017 NFL Draft Grades

We’ve had about a week to let things settle now. There were some interesting developments that took place in the draft, from the Bears trading up for Mitch Trubitsky to the Jets taking two safeties to John Ross going in the top ten. With a few days gone by to digest all of this, it is time to grade each team’s draft haul.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)Arizona Cardinals
Grade: B+

With all three of the perceived top quarterbacks off the board at 13, Arizona took the best player available and filled a need in Haasan Reddick. Fourth round pick Dorian Johnson will compete right away. Budda Baker is a great pick to have in the second round, but he fills a similar role to Deone Bucannon as an in the box safety who can play in the slot. Not taking a quarterback in a deep signal caller class was an issue as well.

Falcons logoAtlanta Falcons
Grade: A-

Nabbing Takkarist McKinley after trading up definitely improves an already solid pass rush. He is versatile and crafty. Duke Riley could also see some meaningful time as a cover linebacker and special teams ace. Adding offensive line and running back depth was a good move. Not adding a young safety is the biggest knock here.

Ravens logoBaltimore Ravens
Grade: B

Rebuilding the defense with four straight defensive picks is a great move. However, Baltimore could use some help at the skill positions. With no true starting running back, a middling receiving core that just lost Steve Smith Sr. and a number of unproven tight ends, offense would have been a good focus. Still Tim Williams could develop into a stud, Marlon Humphrey is going to play smash mouth football. Tyus Bower and Chris Wormley will contribute right away as well on passing downs. But come on Ozzie, passing on O.J. Howard???

Bills logoBuffalo Bills
Grade: A-

Buffalo stood pat on drafting a quarterback when it didn’t one. Instead, they landed another first rounder and took a versatile corner who can contribute right away. Taking Zay Jones could lead to Sammy Watkins finally getting a true compliment in their offense. Nathan Peterman might just develop as well. Really high upside draft for the Bills, who realize that they are more than one piece away.

Panthers logoCarolina Panthers
Grade: A

Only knock here is not adding a corner. The offense just became a lot more electric though with Christain McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel joining the mix. Taylor Moton could challenge for a starting spot right away. There are some holes on the defense still but Carolina took a huge step in the right direction.

Bears logoChicago Bears
Grade: D

No one has quite figured out what the Bears were thinking yet. Trading up to take a player they could have taken at 3 doesn’t make much sense, especially after signing Mike Glennon. The potential of Adam Shaheen and Eddie Jackson prevent this from being a F. But when you have only five picks, your mistakes are compounded.

Bengals LogoCincinnati Bengals
Grade: C-

Another slightly confusing draft class here. John Ross is a blazer, but top-10 is bold. There were some much better players still on the board. Adding a controversial figure like Joe Mixon to a backfield that already has Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill is a head-scratcher as well. Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson have a lot of potential. This is a big draft class for the Bengals, but a very risky one as well.

Browns logoCleveland Browns
Grade: A+

What. A. Haul. The Browns took the best player in the draft in Myles Garrett. Adding a potential playmaker in Jabrill Peppers and added a huge offensive weapon in David Njoku whose potential is through the roof. Deshon Kizer could be the quarterback of the future and Cleveland landed him in the second round. Caleb Brantley is an intriguing pick as well. This doesn’t guarantee the Browns will be better, but this is the best think they could have done to improve. Oh and they got another first round pick for next year.

Cowboys logoDallas Cowboys
Grade: A-

After landing a stellar class a year ago, Dallas made a lot of smart moves this season. Taco Charlton should help the pass rush right away. The secondary got a lot deeper with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Both could develop into solid number two guys. With Jaylon Smith coming off a full offseason, this defense should be better. What holds this back is the inability to find a tight end of the future, Jason Witten is getting up there.

Denver_BroncosDenver Broncos
Grade: B

This would have been lower if they hadn’t just signed Jamal Charles. Garrett Bolles fills a need, but I think he was the third best tackle available. DeMarcus Walker won’t be DeMarcus Ware, but represents a smart pick. Jake Butt could be a steal for a team that hasn’t had a ton of production at tight end since Julius Thomas left town.

Lions LogoDetroit Lions
Grade: B+

Jarrad Davis and Teez Tabor will compete for time right away and improve a defense that ranked last in opponent’s completion percentage. Michael Roberts will be a red zone threat and Kenny Golladay has a huge build to work with. Detroit adding some interesting pieces that need some molding. Solid class, but it won’t blow anyone away.

Packers logoGreen Bay Packers
Grade: B+

Green Bay went defense on it’s first four picks. Kevin King and Josh Jones should improve what was a dreadful secondary a year ago. Montravius Adams will develop into a solid defensive lineman. The biggest thing still missing is a true inside linebacker to ensure that Clay Matthews stay on the outside in that defense. Jamaal Williams from BYU should be a nice complementary running back from day one for the Packers as well.

Texans logoHouston Texans
Grade: A-

Filled some major needs and added a few pieces that will contribute this year for a team that made the divisional round of the playoffs last year. Cornerback was the only need not filled with A.J. Bouye in Jacksonville, but Deshaun Watson, Zach Cunningham and De’Onta Freeman could make this a special draft class. Cunning needs to improve his tackling mechanics but he is great at diagnosing plays. Freeman adds some power to the run game and Watson is the most pro ready quarterback entering the league this year. Julie’n Davenport might be the starting tackle by 2018 too. It just better pay off with no first rounder next season.

Colts logoIndianapolis Colts
Grade: B+

Still not adding anyone to protect Andrew Luck was a mistake. The Colts waited until the fourth round to draft an offensive lineman. However, adding Marshon Lattimore and Quincy Wilson will make this secondary very good this year. Wilson will slot in next to Vontae Davis. Marlon Mack could be the heir to the throne as well at running back. Good draft class for Indianapolis.

Jaguars logoJacksonville Jaguars
Grade: A

This might finally be the draft class to pull the Jaguars out of a top five draft spot. Leonard Fournette projects to be a beast. Cam Robinson will be a good offensive lineman when Jacksonville determines what his best fit is. Dede Westbrook is a burner, but has some durability concerns. Dawaune Smoot is a future starter with a high motor. The only thing that would have made it better would have been a developmental quarterback.

Chiefs LogoKansas City Chiefs
Grade: B

The Chiefs made some risky moves in this year’s draft. Patrick Mahomes could pan out great as the future at quarterback. Kansas City gave up a lot to get him though. Tanoh Kpassagnon, Kareem Hunt and Jehu Chesson all have a ton of upside, but won’t make much of an impact this season. In two years, this could be an A+ class, or a complete failure.

Chargers logoLos Angeles Chargers
Grade: A+

There is no one happier with his team’s draft class than Philip Rivers. After signing Russell Okung in the offseason, the team added Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney to finish rebuilding the offensive line into a strength. Throw in the best receiver in the draft in Mike Williams and suddenly this offense has been transformed. Desmond King could also be a steal in the fifth round if he makes the transition to safety smoothly.

Los Angeles Rams logoLos Angeles Rams
Grade: C

That other Los Angeles team added some weapons for Jared Goff. Cooper Kupp could develop into a really solid number two receiver. Josh Reynolds has a ton of upside. Gerald Everett is solid pick, but in a tight end class like this one, his selection is a bit of a let down. Overall, the Rams did alright without much draft capital. Sixth rounder Tanzel Smart might be an early impact guy as well.

Dolphins logoMiami Dolphins
Grade: B+

Miami went defense on five of its seven draft picks, including each of its first three picks. All three, Charles Harris, Raekwon McMillan and Cordrea Tankersley could all have an early impact. The Dolphins lose points though for taking Harris with Takkarist McKinley, T.J. Watt and Taco Charlton still on the board. Isiah Ford in the seventh round could turn out to be a great value pick.

Vikings logoMinnesota Vikings
Grade: A-

Without a first round pick, Minnesota still got a first round talent in Dalvin Cook. Pat Elflein will be an above-average interior lineman for the next decade. Minnesota also added a lot of depth to its receiving and linebacking corps. Sixth round pick Bucky Hodges will be a good piece to develop. The only knock is that Minnesota waited until the 245th pick before taking a player in the secondary.

Patriots LogoNew England Patriots
Grade: B+

The Pats made a number of moves in this year’s draft, coming away with just four players. Fitting that Patriots did not make any of their originally slotted selections either. The draft class itself isn’t overly impressive. Adding Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy make it seem a bit better. New England only selected defensive and offensive linemen. One of them is bound to be a Pro Bowler, but failing to add a linebacker or young wide receiver hurts a bit. On top of all of that, only Derek Rivers is likely able to have any impact on this year’s team.

Saints logoNew Orleans Saints
Grade: B

Adding all of the talent that the Saints did makes this class very impressive. Giving up Brandin Cooks and having only one pick after the third round hurts it a little bit, especially when New Orleans failed to take a receiver with any of its picks. Marshon Lattimore dropping to 11th makes him a steal. He could develop into a good starting corner. Ryan Ramczyk is a prototypical right tackle. Alvin Kamara is good, but after signing Adrian Peterson with Mark Ingram still on the roster, it seemed like overkill a bit. There is also still no long term plan for when Drew Brees retires and that has to be a little worrisome.

Giants LogoNew York Giants
Grade: B-

I’m going with my gut on this one, but many people mocked the Giants’ decision to take Eli Apple at number 10 last year. He turned out to be a big contributor. Evan Engram might be a similar style pick. I can’t help but wonder why not David Njoku though, who went six slots later. Dalvin Tomlinson is the best pick of the lot and will pair up with Damon Harrison to create a road block in the middle of that defense. Davis Webb and Wayne Gallman have potential. For what feels like the millionth time though, the Giants did not address the linebacker position in this draft.

Jets logoNew York Jets
Grade: C+

Mike Maccagnan started trading, and then never really stopped. Jamal Adams is a great pick. So is Marcus Maye honestly with Calvin Pryor headed for the door. Ardarius Stewart has the makings of Jerrico Cotchery. However, not drafting an offensive lineman after losing Ryan Clady and Nick Mangold is questionable. As is waiting until the sixth round to draft a corner. Jordan Leggett might be a steal though in the fifth round, giving the Jets a much needed pass catcher at the position.

Raiders logoOakland Raiders
Grade: B+

D. J. Haden went to Detroit, so Gareon Conley is a great pick, but carries some baggage. Obi Melifonwu with start next two Karl Joseph, giving Oakland a very solid young secondary. Eddie Vanderdoes might turn out to be a sleeper going late in the third as well. I felt like a pass catcher would have been nice to add to this offense to take some pressure of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Linebacker is also still a concern with Aldon Smith’s status seemingly perpetually up in the air. Overall, a very solid group.

Eagles LogoPhiladelphia Eagles
Grade: A-

This team filled just about every perceived hole. Philly added a pass rusher in Derek Barnett, even if in between positions. Sydney Jones might just end up being the best corner in a very deep draft if he can recapture the form he had before tearing his ACL. Rasul Douglas will help now while Jones recovers. Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson both won’t see the field much this season, but if Alshon Jeffrey doesn’t stay and the team moves on from Jordan Matthews, these two could find some meaningful playing time.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logoPittsburgh Steelers
Grade: B

Overall, a solid draft class, but Pittsburgh waited a bit to address the secondary and made a confusing move to grab JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round. T. J. Watt should help an aging pass rush though and John Connor will be a nice goal line back when needed. Adding a young quarterback to develop in Joshua Dobbs doesn’t hurt either.

49ers LogoSan Francisco 49ers
Grade: A+

Obviously, the trade to move back one spot and still land Solomon Thomas boosts this grade. Reuben Foster might be a Pro Bowler one day, even if he might miss his rookie year. Adding a young signal caller makes sense and George Kittle is a big sleeper in a deep tight end class. He will be on the field from day one as a blocker and developing receiver. Expect Joe Williams to play a role as well. San Francisco really took the idea of rebuilding seriously and made the most of it selections.

Seahawks logoSeattle Seahawks
Grade: C

This was a bit of an odd draft for Seattle. Malik McDowell has some effort concerns, something that the Seahawks have had previous issues dealing with. Ethan Pocic is a great pick for a team that lost Max Unger. There are a few intriguing pieces looking down the rest of the board, but with no corner to develop or linebacker depth, this is a little disappointing by Seattle standards. However, John Schneider has been known to know what no one else in the room knows with some of these later round picks. In two years, this grade might be a little harsh.

Buccaneers logoTampa Bay Buccaneers
Grade: B+

Landing O.J. Howard 19th is a coup for Tampa, who desperately needed a game-changer at tight end. Justin Evans is going to need a lot of time before he can contribute though with poor tackling form. Jeremy McNichols and Chris Godwin both have upside and could develop into starters one day. The Bucs have had success taking running backs from Boise State (Doug Martin).

Titans logoTennessee Titans
Grade: C-

Now, this isn’t as bad as Chicago, but passing on Mike Williams for Corey Davis makes no sense. Neither does passing on Gareon Conley and Tre’Davious White to take Adoree’ Jackson. Taywan Taylor might turn out to be a good slot man, but Jonnu Smith over some of the other tight ends available (George Kittle, Jake Butt) is a bad pick. Tennessee filled needs, but not with the best available players.

Washington made up logoWashington
Grade: A-

Even without a GM, Washington quietly had a good draft. Johnathan Allen has some health concerns, but if he can play, he is a top ten talent. Ryan Anderson will contribute right away. Samaje Perine will hopefully aid a struggling backfield. Taking a gamble on Joshua Holsey could pay off as well. Drafting a quarterback to develop would have been nice with Kirk Cousins mulling a move elsewhere after the season, but Washington got some good value from this draft.

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2017 Aftermath NFL Mock Draft

Welcome back NFL Draft fans. Matt, Brian and Jack join me once again for our annual mock draft. This is who we think each team should take at their spot, not who we think they will take.

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The Browns shouldn’t overthink this. Just take Garrett and move on. He is a great talent that would hugely improve a terrible pass rush in Cleveland. This is a deep quarterback draft, wait on selecting one. -CM

2. San Francisco 49ers: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
While a QB is tempting here, I would rather test out Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley first and then wait for next year when there is a stronger QB class. So, they need to fill their defense, and with the last 2 first round picks being D-linemen, a strong secondary presence makes sense for the Niners. -ML

3. Chicago Bears: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
After a 3-13 season, the Bears need to fix a lot.  Importantly, they need to continue to rebuild their defense.  More importantly, a shut down corner can expedite the process, and even with the injuries, Marshon Lattimore is the best cornerback on the board for the Bears to pick. -BM

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
This was easy. Fournette fills a need and was probably the best talent at this point. Also, imagine how this offense will look when the passing game is not the only threat on the field. -JV

5. Tennessee Titans: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Titans fired their receivers coaches at the end of last season. Rishard Matthews led the way with 65 receptions for 945 yards, in other words, great stats for a number two receiver. Adding Mike Williams fills the void of a big-bodied playmaker who can stretch the field and make third down conversions easier with his huge catch radius. Marcus Mariota was having a Pro Bowl caliber season in 2016 before his injury. Adding Williams would accelerate his growth and make the ground game even more viable, keeping the safety out of the box. -CM

6. New York Jets: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
I really struggled with this pick. In order to avoid the trap of drafting another QB, I really think the Jets should trade down. Malik Hooker made sense here as well, and while Reddick is a stretch, the guy was a freak at the combine and has the ability to play all over the field. Plus, the last guy the Jets drafted out of Temple? Muhammad Wilkerson. -ML

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
The Chargers could have gone with a safety with this pick, but I feel Thomas will have a larger impact on the Chargers defense. Imagine Thomas lined up opposite to Bosa. Do I need to say anything more? -BM

8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Jonathan Stewart only has so many more miles left on those legs. Not to mention McCaffrey has the hands to catch passes from Cam Newton. This will add another dimension to the Panthers offense. -JV

9. Cincinnati Bengals: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
It might not be the biggest need for the Bengals, but adding a great pass rusher and likely the best player remaining makes a ton of sense. He could be a long-term replacement for Michael Johnson or start alongside Geno Atkins. -CM

10. Buffalo Bills: OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
This guy is for real.  Howard is a big target, and has the speed and power to match it.  He can make all the catches, run all the routes, and even his blocking as a TE is strong. With the Bills having locked down Tyrod Taylor, it’s time to give him a new toy to play with. -ML

11. New Orleans Saints: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Like every other year, the Saints have a Super Bowl contending offense, but a very flawed defense.  With Hooker dropping this far in the draft, the Saints need to draft him even with the injuries. -BM

12. Cleveland Browns: Mitchell Turbisky, QB, UNC
It’s the same old song and dance. The Browns need a quarterback. Except this time Turbisky apparently wants to play in Cleveland. I guess some people are just gluttons for punishment. -JV

13. Arizona Cardinals: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
While rumor has it that this will be a quarterback, Arizona would be smart to draft the future for wide receiver. Davis can block and is a polished route runner. He needs to work on cutting out drops, but who better to learn from than Larry Fitzgerald. -CM

14) Philadelphia Eagles: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Having satisfied their receiver need by signing Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, the Eagles ABSOLUTELY need to take a cornerback, no matter how tempting a RB is. Dalvin Cook is available, but the aggressive corner from the SEC with great open-field tackling skills will be more valuable in the long run. -ML

15. Indianapolis Colts: Derek Barnett, LB,  Tennessee
The Colts did a good job improving their defense this offseason, and one could say drafting an OL with this spot would not be reaching.  However, Barnett gives the Colts defense pass rushing they sorely need.  He could even be the most explosive pass rusher after Garret in this draft. -BM

16. Baltimore Ravens: Takkarist McKinley, UCLA, OLB
The Ravens defense has not been the same in recent years and I think they will address that upfront by taking Takkarist McKinley. -JV

17. Washington: Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
Washington takes a page out of Dallas’ playbook and continues to build its offensive line up. Giving Kirk Cousins as much time to throw is critical and with so many running backs still available, adding one in the later rounds will bolster the running game. -CM

18. Tennessee Titans: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
He might just be the better of the Ohio State corners. Lattimore tends to be more highly rated, but his inflated stats are due to teams consistently targeting Conley, who performed admirably under the pressure. With a clean bill of health that his former teammate does not have, and great size and speed for a corner, Conley could step in as a day one starter for the upstart Titans. -ML

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
The Bucs could go a few different directions with this pick, but their running back corps is in flux with the suspension of Martin.  Cook is a game changing talent once one looks past the off field issues, and Tampa Bay loves Florida State products. -BM

20. Denver Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Broncos need someone to protect that young quarterback of theirs. Ramczyk comes from a Wisconsin system that usually translates well to the NFL. -JV

21. Detroit Lions: John Ross, WR, Washington
Calvin Johnson is gone and not coming back. Anquan Boldin might skip town too. That leaves a pretty serious void behind Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. Ross can start in the slot right away and spread the field underneath by taking the top off of defenses. -CM

22. Miami Dolphins: Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC
Once Pouncey returns healthy for the 2017 season, the offense will be shored up, so the Dolphins most glaring hole is CB.  Jackson is explosive and can immediately be plugged next to Byron Maxwell.  An added benefit is his strong play on special teams. -BM

23. New York Giants: Jarran Davis, LB, Florida
For years, ever since Antonio Pierce retired to be honest, the Giants have desperately needed a linebacker, and never taken one. They should this year in one of the strongest LB classes to date, and Davis might just be the best of the bunch. Davis has great tackling instincts, flies to the ball, and word on the street is he’s the kind of character you want to lead your team. -ML

24. Oakland Raiders: David Njoku, TE, Miami
You know how the Raiders usually draft big fast wide receivers? Well, why not a big fast tight end to throw into the mix? Njoku could be a real threat for this team who opens up different areas of the field for other players. -JV

25. Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
About time Houston lands a quarterback. The likelihood is that Watson will be long gone by this pick, but in this scenario, selecting him makes a ton of sense. The one thing that Houston desperately needs is a quarterback. Watson is the most pro ready in this draft, making him a great fit for Houston. -CM

26. Seattle Seahawks: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Seattle is transitioning to a central focus on Russell Wilson, and therefore need to keep him upright so he can make the plays he has to. So, Seattle needs to take the best lineman available who is ready to play right now. I think that guy is Robinson, as the LT at Alabama for 3 years has the experience against great SEC defenses to make an immediate impact on Seattle’s line. -ML

27. Kansas City Chiefs: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
Foster dropped in the draft because of his off field issues, and looking past that, he is clearly the best player available. Derrick Johnson is coming off a torn achillies and will be 35 in November. I have the Chiefs drafting Foster because they should go with the best player available route. Also, Reid knows how to deal with players with previous off field issues, and on the field, Foster will put the Chiefs over the top. -BM

28. Dallas Cowboys: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
As much as I wanted to add to the Cowboys’ offense here, their secondary really needs help. Even though White might be the fourth or fifth corner taken, this is a deep cornerback draft and the Cowboys are getting a good cover corner in White. -JV

29. Green Bay Packers: Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt
Keeping Clay Matthews at outside linebacker is essential. Adding Cunningham will allow for that. He needs to improve his tackling, but he always seems to be around the ball. He will likely improve the run defense right away. -CM

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
This was my favorite pick of this mock draft, because I honestly think it is a perfect fit at the end of the first round.  Ever since Troy Polamalu retired, his presence has been missed, as Pittsburgh misses his wrecking ball mentality and his playmaking abilities.  Peppers is athletic enough to fill that void, and if handled correctly, could vault the Pittsburgh defense right into line with its explosive offense. -ML

31. Atlanta Falcons: Budda Baker, FS, Washington
Although the Falcons defense improved last season, there is still a lot of work to be done.  One could argue they need a defensive lineman or a linebacker to help shore up the rush defense, but the secondary needs help.  Baker is a playmaker and could easily make the Falcons secondary the strength of their defense. -BM

32. New Orleans Saints: Kevin King, CB, Washington
Similar to the Cowboys above, I was really tempted to take some offensive talent, but could not ignore the issues the Saints have on defense. Again, this is a deep cornerback draft and we could see quite a few cornerbacks go in the first round. This Saints defense looks a lot better with Hooker and King coming to town-JV

Geno Can’t Catch a Break

It is no secret that I am Jets fan. In that position, I’ve watched Geno Smith in the Jets organization since his first day. I didn’t like the pick when he was selected in the second round. Smith was part of one of the worst quarterback drafts of all-time. To name a few, E.J. Manuel, Smith, Ryan Nassib, Matt Barkley, Landry Jones and Mike Glennon were the more notable players selected.

Geno Smith
Smith has thrown 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. (Wikimedia Commons)

Smith got off to a solid start in 2013, he got the starting job after Mark Sanchez went down with a major shoulder injury in the preseason. New York alternated wins and losses through their first nine games. Losing three in a row knocked them out of the playoff conversation, but winning three of their final four got the Jets to 8-8 under Smith as a rookie. It was not a great statistical year from him, but it was a starting point.

2014 ended up being a nightmare. The Jets ended up 4-12, Smith only played in 14 games. He cut down on interceptions and improved his completion percentage, but he only threw 13 touchdowns in 14 games played. Rex Ryan was fired at the end of the year, as was general manager John Idzik. There were concerns over Smith’s development and a new coach would mean some possible shake ups.

During the 2015 offseason, the Jets traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick. What many forget is that Fitz was supposed to be the backup for the 2015 season. New head coach Todd Bowles and new general manager Mike McCagnan backed Smith to be the starter for the season. They wanted to give Smith a chance to develop even more and see what they had in him before they started looking elsewhere.

That August though, IK Enempali punched Smith in the face in the locker room following a practice. Smith broke his jaw and would miss 6-10 weeks of the season. That opened the door for Fitzpatrick to take the starting job, and Fitz ended up throwing a franchise record 31 touchdowns. Heading into 2016, there was no way that Smith had a shot at the starting job.

Until he did. Fitzpatrick leads the league in interceptions and the Jets brass decided to give Smith a shot. He lasted about two quarters before he suffered an odd knee injury on a sack. It turns out that he tore his ACL, which ended his season. Smith is set to be a free agent at the end this season.

Geno Smith
Smith is 12-18 as a starter for the Jets. (Wikimedia Commons)

He had a shot finally to show everyone what he had learned in his year plus on the bench, only to have it all vanish just as quick as it came. The likelihood is that Smith will never get a chance to start anywhere now. He seems destined to be a career backup, holding the clipboard as the emergency fill in if someone is injured.

I was never a big fan of Geno Smith, but you have to wonder if the league never saw the best version of him. He was thrust into the starting role before he was ready and forced to learn NFL defenses on the job. He showed some signs of improvement from his first season to his second. We never got a chance to see what might have been with Smith if he was given just a little more time to develop on the bench, or if a team had stayed with him as their starter for a few seasons.

Honestly, he probably never would have turned into a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he might have been an average quarterback. Being remembered as alright is a whole lot more fun than being thought of as a bust. If Smith never starts another NFL game in his life, then he will undoubtedly go down as one.

Smith probably doesn’t deserve another chance based on his previous body of work, but based on how the last two seasons have gone for him, you can’t help but wish he didn’t have to go out this way.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 9

Patriots Logo1. New England Patriots (Last week: 1)
Another week, another dominant victory. Tom Brady is a legitimate MVP candidate despite missing the first four games of the season. Jamie Collins might be gone, but this defense should keep humming along. Revenge against Rex Ryan is always nice too for Bill Belichick.

Cowboys logo2. Dallas Cowboys (Last week: 2)
The Cowboys have played half of their schedule and have a 2.5 game lead over the rest of the NFC East. Overtime was required for Dallas to oust Philly, but the 4th quarter Dallas put together cannot be overlooked. The biggest question now is who deserves Rookie of the Year, Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliot.

Denver_Broncos3. Denver Broncos (Last week: 6)
Three weeks ago, Denver had lost two straight and seemed to be slipping. Fast forward to now where they sit at 6-2 with solid wins over Houston and San Diego. The Patriots have the early lead, but the Broncos are hanging around in the AFC.

Raiders logo4. Oakland Raiders (Last week: 9)
The Raiders actually lead the AFC West right now, but a matchup with Denver on Sunday will decide who gets that designation. Oakland won this weekend despite setting a record for the most penalties in a game. That’s impressive, but also concerning.

Falcons logo5. Atlanta Falcons (Last week: 10)
Talk about a fourth quarter comeback. Atlanta slowed down the Packer offense in the second half and moved themselves to 5-3. Atlanta has shown that they are going to be competitive this year against anyone.

Chiefs Logo6. Kansas City Chiefs (Last week: 7)
Somehow, the Chiefs are in third place in the AFC West with a 5-2 record. That’s a testament to just how good this division is this year. Even if Alex Smith and the backfield are banged up, Kansas City has always won with defense and will continue to going forward.

Seahawks logo7. Seattle Seahawks (Last week: 3)
Seattle has only one win against a team with a winning record so far this season. A tough road loss to the Saints means that the Seahawks return home for a Monday night matchup with the Bills at 4-3-1. AKA not where anyone thought they would be right now.

Vikings logo8. Minnesota Vikings (Last week: 4)
The loss to the Eagles seemed like an anomaly, until Minnesota laid an egg on Monday Night Football. It might have been a divisional game, but a loss to the Bears really hurts. The Vikings suddenly look like a team with a lot of question marks on the offensive side of the ball.

Packers logo9. Green Bay Packers (Last week: 5)
Green Bay came within about a minute of beating the Falcons for what would have been an impressive road victory. Considering that Ty Montgomery, James Starks and Randall Cobb were out with injury, the Packers had a strong offensive showing. Minnesota’s loss leaves the Packers just a game out of first in the NFC North, but they need to be much more consistent down the stretch.

Eagles Logo10. Philadelphia Eagles (Last week: 8)
It was a solid week, but still a loss to a division rival. Dallas now has a commanding lead in the NFC East halfway through the season. Carson Wentz is still playing well, but the ground attack could use a bit of a boost.

Washington made up logo11. Washington (Last week: 13)
A tie over in London wouldn’t suggest for Washington to move up, but after losses by both Arizona and Detroit, this seems fitting. Washington is still right in the mix for a wildcard spot in the NFC, with this offense leading the way averaging the third most yards per game.

Giants Logo12. New York Giants (Last week: 14)
New York took the week off and as a result moved into second place in the NFC East. However, the Giants have some offensive issues to solve. They rank last in rushing yards per game and are scoring fewer points per game than the Browns. Ben McAdoo has some work to do.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)13. Arizona Cardinals (Last week: 11)
Arizona fell on the road against Carolina, showing that they really are just an average team. The Cardinals rank 18th in points per game but sixth in points per game. Time for what can be a high powered offense to catch up to its defense.

Lions Logo

14. Detroit Lions (Last week: 12)
Detroit had a chance to take down a slumping Texans team but instead find themselves at .500 at the midway point of the season. A matchup with the reeling Vikings will show us if this was just a bump in the road after a three-game win streak for the Lions, or a sign of things to come.

Chargers logo15. San Diego Chargers (Last week: 15)
All of the statistics in the world point to the Chargers being a good team, except for their record. San Diego’s upcoming schedule of Tennessee, Miami, Houston and Tampa Bay does give them a good chance to turn that around though.

Saints logo16. New Orleans Saints (Last week: 21)
Finally, the Saints got a win against a quality opponent. It has been a rough start to the season for Sean Payton’s group, but the NFC South is still wide open, as is the NFC as a whole. The defense looked better this week, allowing fewer than 27 point for the first time since week 2.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo17. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last week: 18)
There are rumors that Ben Roethlisberger might be closer to returning than we initially thought. Big Ben coming back to the Steelers offense makes them a force again in the AFC. And with the rest of the division slumping, Pittsburgh has to feel pretty confident.

Bengals Logo18. Cincinnati Bengals (Last week: 17)
Washington moved up but Cincinnati is moving down. The Bengals had a chance to force a tie atop the AFC North with Pittsburgh, but could not find a way to get the win in London. Cincy has a bye week to attempt to regain its 2015 form.

Texans logo19. Houston Texans (Last week: 23)
Someone please explain the Houston Texans to me. After looking completely helpless in Denver, Bill O’Brien turned his team around to take down a red-hot Lions team. Houston isn’t good, but they are probably good enough to win the AFC South.

Ravens logo20. Baltimore Ravens (Last week: 19)
A week off gave the Ravens time to recover from the four game slide they are currently on. The division is still wide open, but Joe Flacco need to find a way to jumpstart the 26th ranked scoring offense in football.

Bills logo21. Buffalo Bills (Last week: 16)
And they are back to normal. Just two weeks after claiming a spot in the top 10, Buffalo is now back in the bottom half of the league. Back-to-back divisional losses where your defense looks helpless will do that to you.

Titans logo22. Tennessee Titans (Last week: 27)
Tennessee is very quietly sitting at .500 through the halfway point of the season. It has already surpassed its win total for 2015 and sits just a game out of first place in the AFC South. How the Titans do in this next four game stretch, with three of them on the road, will decide the outcome of their season.

Dolphins logo23. Miami Dolphins (Last week: 22)
The Fins got a week off, which have been the last thing they wanted. They had won two in a row and Jay Ajayi was on fire. Next week brings a matchup with the Jets to avoid the AFC East cellar.

Buccaneers logo24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last week: 20)
How Tampa failed to win on Sunday is almost mind-boggling. Oakland committed 23 penalties and still beat the Buccaneers. Overall, not a good look. Winston has nine interceptions in seven games. That number needs to come down if the Bucs want to compete.

Panthers logo25. Carolina Panthers (Last week: 26)
Finally a win for the Panthers gets them back on track. Sitting at 2-5, Carolina still has a long way to go before they can really say they have righted the ship, but this was step one.

Colts logo26. Indianapolis Colts (Last week: 24)
Andrew Luck needs to start getting some help. He has played well in the first half of the season for the Colts, but the lack of a run game and a pathetic defense continue to plague the Colts. Allowing 28.8 points per game means that Chuck Pagano might not have his job for much longer.

Jets logo27. New York Jets (Last week: 28)
Two straight wins for the Jets over AFC North teams puts them at 3-5. Being down 20-7 at halftime with Ryan Fitzpatrick completing 3 of his 12 passes for 30 yards will not work most weeks, so Todd Bowles has a lot of work to do to prep this team for Miami.

Rams logo28. Los Angeles Rams (Last week: 25)
The Rams have shown flashes of being a competent team this season, with wins over the Seahawks and Buccaneers. But inconsistent play along with poor coaching has this team in flux as it tries to find an identity.

Bears logo29. Chicago Bears (Last week: 31)
Chicago just got a statement win for John Fox against Minnesota. It won’t really do much for them this season, as they sit at 2-6 right now, but it is a huge boost for the future. Jay Cutler played the best football we’ve seen him play in some time and Jordan Howard tore apart a very good Vikings defense. This gives the Bears something to build on.

Jaguars logo30. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last week: 29)
Another rough week for Jacksonville. The Jags were blown out through three quarters until they scored late to make the game seem competitive. Gus Bradley is on the hot seat and he knows it. I think these next two weeks against Kansas City and Houston will decide his future.

49ers Logo31. San Francisco 49ers (Last week: 30)
Now the only one win team in football, San Francisco needs to find some offensive weapons not named Carlos Hyde. This season seems pretty far gone and Chip Kelly has to be thinking about next year at this point, most notably about which quarterback he would like to draft in April.

Browns logo32. Cleveland Browns (Last week: 32)
There was hope for Browns fans for a good chunk of Sunday. But then that completely disappeared and the Cubs beat the Indians. Now, Browns fans are facing a Game 7 with a possibility of blowing a 3-1 lead in the World Series. We all know how quickly the sports world tends to forget about that.

Good For Colin Kaepernick

Well, I’ve been away for a while (sorry Will), but I am back to talk about probably the most controversial issue in sports.

At some point, I knew I was going to have to weigh in on this one. He has quickly become the most polarizing person in America not named Donald Trump (cause no one is touching him in that category). He is making a difference and in many ways showing that there is still a lot of racism and social injustice in this country.

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Kaepernick has not played in a regular season game this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

His method hasn’t been perfect, but Colin Kaepernick is turning heads and igniting a conversation about social injustice in the United States. Not to mention that his jersey sales are through the roof. And rather than just pocket the gains, Kaepernick is pledging the proceeds to local communities.

In theory, Kaepernick shouldn’t be anything people pay attention to, but he has become the most polarizing player in the NFL since maybe Tim Tebow. Cops and military personnel around the country have been split on support or disdain for Kaepernick. San Francisco police unions even threatened to stop working 49er games.

Fan reaction overall has been very split. According to a survey of 1,100 NFL fans, Kaep was named the most disliked player in the league. However, his jersey sales led the league in the month of September. Kaep took the proceeds he received and donated it to local Bay Area communities.

Kaepernick definitely crossed the line a little bit with his choice of socks, but outside of that, I really feel that he has done nothing wrong. NFL players are not required, only encouraged, to stand during the national anthem.

All of us are familiar with the first amendment. Many of us cite it all the time as one of the greatest things about our country. It ensures that people like me can continue to pursue a career in journalism. Freedom of speech is an important thing in this country. People seem infuriated by Kaepernick doing one of the most American things possible. He is evoking his first amendment rights to spark a conversation about American society.

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A handful of Kaepernick’s teammates have joined him in the quiet protest. (Wikimedia Commons)

And Kaep has accomplished a lot of what he set out to do. He has started that conversation and it is being held by all of us across the country. Other sports leagues are taking notice. Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles was under the spotlight when he said that MLB players weren’t doing enough. Several NBA teams are joining arms in a sign of unity during the national anthem, similar to how the Seattle Seahawks did when they played the rival 49ers. Even soccer got in on the action as Megan Rapinoe started taking a knee during the nation anthem while playing for the U.S. Women’s National team.

Several times in history, sports have been an area where social and political protests start. This is no different than any other protest in history. I applaud Kaepernick for what he has done so far in starting this conversation. I think it is one that needs to be had.

I get that a lot of people are not happy with his actions. I know that September 11 is a day that hits home for all of us and that NFL players protesting on that day is bordering on insensitive, but isn’t it more insensitive if we don’t listen? This is no secret that our country has issues with the way that police and minorities interact. It might be nobody’s fault, but that does not mean that the problem should be ignored. Kaepernick found a way to start the conversation. Now it is our job to continue it.